Politics Betting: Ireland's big three in sensational election dead heat

Volunteers count votes in Ireland's election
The count is under way in Ireland

Uncertainty in Ireland as election exit poll puts parties level and shows no clear path to a stable government. Meanwhile, Boris Johnson is about to reshuffle his cabinet, reports Max Liu.

"There is a 1.3% margin of error in the exit poll which means the parties could change places as the count comes in. On Sportsbook, meanwhile, a second general election in Ireland this year is 5/2."

Exit polls put Ireland's three biggest political parties in an extraordinary dead heat following yesterday's general election. Counting got under way this morning but an exit poll published when voting finished on Saturday night shows Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein all getting 22% of the vote each.

A majority government in the Irish parliament needs the support of 80 members but the exit poll shows all parties falling a long way short of that figure.

Sinn Fein surge but could Varadkar cling on as PM?

Leo Varadkar's party Fine Gael arguably performed better than expected - some pre-election day polls had shown them dropping to below 20% - and the odds on him staying on as Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) have shortened to 3.412/5 from as long as 5.69/2 this time last week.

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The big story, however, was Sinn Fein's stunning result, if the exit poll is correct. They are 1.548/15 to take over 30.5 seats but, as they only stood 42 candidates across 39 constituencies, their leader Mary Lou McDonald 9.08/1 is unlikely to become PM.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin has been the favourite to become Ireland's next PM since the election was called. He remains 1.271/4 even though it looks like his party have not improved on their performance at the last Irish election. They are 1.271/4 to take most seats.

Next government odds reflect uncertainty

The next government market on the Exchange - where there is no clear favourite - reflects the uncertainty created by the exit poll.

During the campaign, Martin ruled out forming a coalition with Fine Gael or Sinn Fein, while Varadkar said his party wouldn't work with Sinn Fein. But it will be impossible for a government to be formed without two of the three parties cooperating with each other.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have worked together in Ireland's parliament on a confidence and supply basis for the past few years and, at 3.211/5, that could be the most feasible option, if Martin is prepared to go back on his word and work with Varadkar's party again.

Another one?

On the other hand, Martin has said that his party is underestimated in polls and believes they could out-perform last night's projection.

If he's right then perhaps they will form a minority government 3.02/1. He could also face pressure from within Fianna Fail to do a deal with Sinn Fein so collaboration between the two parties can't be ruled out at 2.226/5.

There is a 1.3% margin of error in the exit poll which means the parties could change places as the count comes in. On Sportsbook, meanwhile, a second general election in Ireland this year is 5/2.

Johnson set to reshuffle cabinet

Meanwhile in Westminster, tensions between numbers 10 and 11 surfaced again this week when it was reported that Dominic Cummings and other government advisors refer to Sajid Javid as "Chino" - an acronym for Chancellor In Name Only. A reminder that the Tory party is full of lovely people.

As the second most senior member of the government, Javid is 12.011/1 to be the next leader of the Conservative Party but his relationship with Cummings is said to be deteriorating, as the two battle for influence.

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Any indication of rifts between PM and chancellor inevitably draw comparisons to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown whose long-running feud contributed to the downfall of New Labour. As PM, Brown had a difficult relationship with his own chancellor Alastair Darling at times. David Cameron and Theresa May managed to get on better with George Osborne and Philip Hammond respectively.

The Cummings/Javid story is a reminder that, when a government has a commanding majority, its biggest dangers often lie within. Both men are competing for influence over Johnson - with Javid keen to keep a tight control over government spending and Cummings desperate to put money into the northern and midlands constituencies where the Tories gained seats at the general election.

This week's cabinet reshuffle should provide clues as to who has the upper hand and to what direction this government will take.

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